Tom Izzo and Tim Miles became friends before the 2012-13 season started.
By Randy York
Tim Miles has done innumerable smart things since becoming Nebraska’s head basketball coach, and two of the smartest were: 1) sharpening his relationship with the national media; and 2) being a genuinely nice guy who respects all Big Ten Conference colleagues, including Tom Izzo. Michigan State’s legendary head coach once asked Miles if he could fly from Las Vegas to Kansas City on NU’s chartered plane to reach the same tournament both would attend for recruiting. Out of admiration and a great sense of camaraderie, Miles had a quick one-word answer: “Sure!”
Monday night, Izzo returned the favor. Soon after he heard that he and his fellow coaches had voted Miles the Big Ten Conference Coach of the Year, Izzo picked up the phone and dialed Miles’ cell number to congratulate him on the honor that had been announced earlier in the evening. He also wanted to commend Miles for Nebraska’s sprint to the Big Ten finish line that included 10 wins in the Huskers’ last 12 games.
The gesture reinforced something both coaches embrace – a veteran coach who is, for all intents and purposes, a mentor of sorts for a Big Ten newcomer.
Izzo Offers Wisdom, Tips for the Upper Echelon
“He was so good and said ‘Listen, I’m going to give you some advice now that you’re going to start playing for championships…he was really nice about mentoring, and I really appreciated it,” Miles told Chris Childers, who was filling in as host Tuesday morning on The Tim Brando Show on SiriusXM College Sports Nation.
“I can’t believe I’m talking to Tom Izzo about competing at the highest level of the Big Ten,” Miles said. “Are you kidding me? Is this real life? He’s just such a good guy and really looks out for us younger guys, so to speak, even though I’m 47, but younger to the league. I just can’t say enough about the good people in this league. It’s really a fun league to be a part of.”
Childers told Miles that before this year, he rarely received calls from Nebraska during basketball season and now he gets “a ton of them” on satellite radio.
Miles Calls Lincoln ‘The San Diego of the Big Ten’
Like a veteran, Miles transitioned to why basketball interest keeps multiplying in Nebraska. “When we moved to the Big Ten, our administration built a great practice facility and a state-of-the-art playing venue,” he said. “You have to understand our fans were backed up Sunday. It was 70 degrees. We are the San Diego of the Big Ten, by the way. It was just perfect. The Haymarket Area looked like the Power and Light District in Downtown Kansas City where the Sprint Center is.”
Miles pointed out how dozens of students arrived at Pinnacle Bank Arena’s front door at 5:30 a.m. Sunday morning and were rewarded with sub sandwiches and pizza for their spirit and passion.
At that point of the radio interview, Miles didn’t wait for more questions. He segued to stories that captivated him most and mentioned Nebraska’s “No Sit Sunday”, a battle cry that encouraged all Big Red fans to stay on their feet from opening tip-off to final gun – a competitive tactic that seemed to work, especially down the stretch.
89-Year-Old Man Stands for the Entire Game
“There’s an article on the front page of our newspaper today about an 89-year-old gentleman who stood up the entire game,” Miles said.
Indeed, Dick Knutson, a 1950 NU Law School graduate, “has been going to games since the 1950s (actually the 1940s) and he said it was the best game he’s ever been to – unbelievable…just unbelievable,” Miles said, before adding one more anecdote to one amazing Sunday.
“I had a Wisconsin kid, who’s a heck of a player, say to me after the game, ‘Coach, I have something I gotta tell ya – we respect the heck out of your guys…this is the most fun I’ve had as a collegiate player…and we lost’. So I think that tells you what the atmosphere was like at Pinnacle Bank Arena. It was rocking. It was just a riot. Our fans have been tremendous. Maybe we should have a watch party for them Sunday (for NCAA Selection Day).”
SI Declares Nebraska Started March Madness
Childers consistently has given Miles kudos throughout the past six weeks and Tuesday he told Nebraska’s second-year head coach that he thought the Husker-Badger Big Ten regular-season finale “felt like a championship.” Sports Illustrated must have agreed because it posted a video Sunday night declaring that the Huskers had officially launched March Madness with their exhilarating win over Wisconsin.
Miles would be the last to dispute such a statement. “Our fans felt like it was a must-win to get in the NCAA Tournament. Our players felt that,” he said. “Coaches are paranoid. We never share anything, even if there’s a one-percent chance to screw everything up.”
Bottom line, “Wisconsin’s so good they make you play that way,” Miles said. “You have to be at your best to beat them. At some point, they were 15 and 4 against the Top 25 (RPI – Rating Percentage Index). That’s just amazing! Nobody’s ever done that, so they’re probably going to be on the No. 1 or No. 2 (seed) line in the NCAA Tournament, almost automatically, I think.”
Childers Agrees: Badgers Worthy of No. 1 Seed
If that prediction becomes a debate, the studio host will support Miles’ analysis. “When you think about it, you beat a No. 1 seed,” Childers told Miles. “That’s nothing to sneeze at. It’s a pretty darned big deal, especially when it’s do-or-die and your boys rose to the occasion.”
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